Recent research in cognitive psychology, neuro- science, and robotics has widely explored the tight relations between language and action systems in primates. However, the link between the pragmatics of linguistic and nonlinguistic inter- actions has received less attention up to now. In this paper, we argue that cognitive agents exploit the same cognitive processes and neural substrate-a general pragmatic competence-across linguistic and nonlinguistic interactive contexts. Elaborating on Levinson's idea of an “interaction engine” that permits to convey and recognize communicative intentions in both linguistic and nonlinguistic interactions, we offer a computationally guided analysis of pragmatic competence, suggesting that the core abilities required for successful linguistic interactions could derive from more primitive architectures for action control, nonlinguistic interactions, and joint actions. Furthermore, we make the case for a novel, embodied approach to human-robot interaction and communication, in which the ability to carry on face-to-face communication develops in coordination with the pragmatic competence required for joint action.